March 3, 2010

Mainers help water flow to Haitians

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

(The first year, Risser made the trip on her own vacation time. Last year, after hearing what she was doing, her higher-ups at Poland Spring told her to keep the vacation time -- this trip was on the company.)

In Maine, Risser said, she works in a state-of-the-art lab with an incubator and a carefully calibrated thermometer for testing water samples ''so we know everything's perfect.''

To test the water down there, she said, ''they've got one of those Styrofoam chicken incubators that you plug in, and they lose power four times a day. So you take a deep breath and say, 'OK, We can still figure this out.'''

All of which goes to show there are two ways to interpret the fact that within the next few days, pallet after pallet of Poland Spring water will be off-loaded onto the crowded airport tarmac in Port-au-Prince and soon thereafter find its way to multitudes who, even as you read this, are dying for a drink.

Is it a faceless corporation using a tiny fraction of its output to burnish its public image? Perhaps -- although it should be noted that the only attention Poland Spring called to its Haiti relief effort was a small press release on a business news wire.

Or is it a group of Maine workers who went to work Thursday and, in their own small way, found a way to help?

''This is tangible,'' Emery said, tapping his laptop. ''I can go home today and really feel good about the fact that the efforts our team put forth today will have a direct effect on Haiti, that our bottles of water over the next few days will be on the ground and helping.''

Standing there in the Poland Spring lobby, Ronfeldt, the retired ship captain on a mission, explained to Risser that he'd driven over from Limington not just to see if Poland Spring was stepping up and doing the right thing, but also to offer a few words of advice about how they might get water from Maine all the way to Port-au-Prince.

Risser listened with interest. It turned out that some of Ronfeldt's ideas -- How about a C-130 airlift directly to Haiti from Pease International Airport in New Hampshire? -- were already being considered.

Then, Risser invited Ronfeldt to come in and chat with Emery, the guy who makes the trucks run on time.

Ronfeldt smiled and shook his head.

''You guys are doing something,'' he said, heading for the door. ''That's all I'm concerned about.''

Chalk one up for the multinational.


Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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